Perennial three-piece Yo La Tengo – Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley and James McNew – are one of the most spectacular bands to have come out of the US in the past thirty years. Turning their hand to everything from classic pop tunes and lullabies, elongated widescreen indie meanderings, free jazz freak-outs and lounge-y bossa nova rhythms to gentle organ jams, drone-y, noise drenched clusterfucks and sweetened garage-pop, they are as chameleonic as they are prolific and their 13th studio album Fade, out now on Matador, only further confirms their unique position within the indie canon.
Whether it’s reimagining the classics as Condo Fucks – or indeed, as the real YLT – creating improvised soundtracks like 2002’s The Sounds of the Sounds of Science, or churning out remarkable albums like 2000’s blissed-out opus And Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out, the mellowed-out melodies of Summer Sun, the hefty noise of 1995s Electro pura or 2006’s behemoth I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass, they exist entirely as a self-contained entity, occupying a space and venturing where no one else would, or indeed could, dare.
The sublime new LP presents 10 tightly coiled, beautifully tendered songs which all seamlessly bleed into and rush through each other like a pure, crystalline stream. The only criticism, if even a criticism at all, is the record’s brevity. Clocking in at just 45 minutes, it’s their shortest album since Fakebook, but is still by no means a fleeting, forgettable tryst. Concise and compact, as with every YLT album, you get a real sense of their agonising diligence to their craft, marked by obsessive attention to detail. From acoustic idyll ‘I’ll Be Around’ to the bittersweet crackle of ‘Paddle Forward’ and the easy-breezy Summer Sun-era ‘Stupid Things’, it’s soporific and completely perfect. Yo La Tengo truly produce intelligent pop, with broad lyrical themes, in a way that no one else ever has.
Ira speaks to us as he prepares for a show later that evening in snow-covered Vermont: “I just picked 13 records I really liked but I don’t really know if they’re my favourites per se – I don’t think I can really choose, or whether ‘favourites’ really exist. There are things I like, and things I don’t like, but it’s all dependent on how I’m feeling that day. Any familiarity with our band will be able to connect the dots.”
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